Martina Anderson ‘humiliation’ divides republicans

A scathing Anderson family response to Sinn Fein’s “humiliation” of MLA Martina Anderson has sharply divided republicans commenting on social media.

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 3:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 3:26 pm
Sinn Fein MLAs Martina Anderson (left) and Karen Mullan who are stepping from their Stormont roles

The Foyle representative, and former IRA member who spent 13 years in prison, was asked to step down from her Stormont role by the party after a series of electoral setbacks in Londonderry.

Karen Mullan – who replaced Ms Anderson’s niece Elisha McCallion as a Foyle MLA after Mrs McCallion was elected to Westminster in 2017– was also invited to “consider her position” by the Sinn Fein leadership.

In a statement following media reports of the Sinn Fein restructuring, Ms Anderson said: “As a republican activist for over 45 years, I admit that recommendation came as a body blow.”

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However, she said she accepted the decision of the party, and agreed to step down.

“Throughout my life as a republican, I have always put our struggle first,” she added.

On Monday, a lengthy statement published by members of the Anderson family described the MLA as being “crushed” by the decision.

It said: “Martina asked all of us to stay away from social media and not to comment on the events that have crushed her. As a family we have done as she has asked and we have maintained our silence and our dignity.

“I do not believe that speaking out like I am here on behalf of our wider family is undermining our republican integrity. We have been and remain a very proud, staunch republican family, despite feeling very hurt.”

The statement adds: “This SF National leadership review that was done in Derry resulted in a massive miscarriage of justice: they came into Derry to fix problems and left creating more.”

Among a number of social media responses, one Twitter user said: “It’s a standard political strategy to review their success in areas and if it’s not going well, then something has to be done. Every republican appreciates what Martina Anderson has done.”

However, convicted former IRA member Tim Brannigan questioned whether party leader Mary Lou McDonald had the authority to act in such a manner: “Having a privately-educated, former Fianna Fáil member from Dublin *pretend* that she made (or could ever make) the decision to humiliate a life-long republican, who did 20 years in an English prison? A truly shameful episode.”

Former IRA bomber Shane Paul O’Doherty, who is now an outspoken critic of the republican movement, tweeted: “With Martina Anderson ‘crushed’ & her family protesting, is there any evidence that she or other female IRA volunteers ever protested IRA Human Rights atrocities against women? No. The treatment she previously endorsed is now upon her.”

The Anderson family statement also states: “For the Sinn Féin’s national leadership to carry out a review in Derry and to listen to the views of some people, and then to conclude that a lifelong republican who has, we believed, made a difference in Derry based on the, amount of people who have commented to us about the difference her return to Derry has made, not to forget the fact that she’s someone who has given everything that is possible to give to the struggle other than her life, should stand down for problems that were not of her making, is a far cry from the ethos of republicanism.

“We believe Martina and Karen are being scarified by the party, used by this SF leadership because Martina and Karen are the public face and are being castigated in an attempt to win back support.

“Those who thought up that strategy could well see it backfire as the people of Derry do not like to see injustices being inflicted on anyone and as a family we do not believe that using a life long Republican as a sacrificial lamb will win back the hearts and minds of republicans in Derry.

“We Anderson’s believe if Martin McGuinness had been alive he would never have allowed this disgraceful tactic to be deployed. Martina had the privilege of being his junior minister. He knew her well and valued her worth.

“As Sinn Féin MLAs Karen Mullan and our Martina, two Republican women have worked their hearts out to build up the support that SF lost over the last two elections. A loss of SF support that happened when our Martina was knocking her pan out in Europe to stop partition.”

Ms Anderson has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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